The good news is the Irish should be able to move the ball and score points against this Purdue team. The Boilermakers have played teams with a 4-11 record on the season, and I'm surprised these teams have won four. None are good football teams. None are even close to average. Yet most were able to move the football quite well and score points against this Purdue defense.
The best news is the Boilermaker defense has given up some yardage on the ground against this weak competition….to the tune of 147 yards per game and seven rushing touchdowns. Notre Dame should be able to move the football and score on this defense. I fully expect the Irish to try to shorten the game with some power football. Can the Irish improve on last week's budding running game? They'll need to if they are going to have any chance to win the game. I expect a healthy diet of James Aldridge and Robert Hughes again this week. Third down, as always will be very key for the Irish.
Here is where it gets scary. The Boilermakers are going to strike and strike quickly. First-year Irish defensive coordinator Corwin Brown has seemed to be able to keep a lid on giving up the big play thus far, but this is going to be a game of a lot of big plays, and most will unfortunately come from the Purdue offense.
Purdue has a lot of skill players. They have one of the best tight ends in the country in Dustin Keller. They have one of the most dangerous receivers/return men in the country in Dorien Bryant, and they have two other receivers averaging over 10 yards per reception in Greg Orton and Selwyn Lymon. Irish fans know Lymon well after he torched the Irish secondary last season to the tune of 238 yards and two touchdowns. And don't forget about Kory Sheets—another speedy running back with the ability to hit the home run. Throw in a quarterback whose completing almost 70 percent of their passes and this is a recipe for disaster.
My guess is Notre Dame will play a lot of zone coverage in this game designed to keep all plays in front of them. David Bruton and Tom Zbikowski will be key, as will the entire secondary. I fully expect Purdue to gouge the Irish defense all day, but the key will be giving up the yardage between the 20s and forcing the Boilermakers to kick field goals. The Irish haven't played great in zone coverage this year from what I've seen, they'll need to in this game. Say it loud. FIELD GOALS. If Notre Dame can hold this unit to field goal attempts most of the time, they'll have a chance to win this game.
While a lot of Irish fans hate to admit it, Purdue is a well-coached team….especially this team. Their special teams are very good with the Boilers being ranked No. 1 in kickoff return with two touchdowns. They're also ranked No. 23 in punt returns, as well as No. 14 in kickoff return defense.
Notre Dame, well, they're not a well-coached team when it comes to special teams, and hopefully they spent a lot of time on it this week because Purdue has the speed and the scheme to hurt you in special teams.
In recent years a big factor in this game has been the "X" factor as I like to call it…..the emotions surrounding the game. Unfortunately, I think the Irish will probably lose this area as well. Purdue is 4-0. They played much better last year in Notre Dame Stadium than the score showed, especially the second half. This will be a very confident Boilermaker team.
I think Irish fans' only hope is that this Irish unit comes out mad at the world and tired of losing. They'll need that mentality to win this game, especially on offense, and they'll need that mentality in the red zone. I'm just not sure they'll be mad enough to win this game.
Mike Frank Prediction: I don't see this one ending well for Notre Dame. The Irish may make a game of it for awhile, but Purdue has too many weapons, and their fans, players and coaching staff plain HATE Notre Dame. There is nothing this team enjoys more than beating up the Irish, and they happen to have a team to do just that if the Irish come out sluggish on Saturday.
Purdue: 37 Notre Dame: 24